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  • Justice in the Balkans: Prosecuting War Criminals in the Hague Tribunal
  • Lawrence Douglas
Justice in the Balkans: Prosecuting War Criminals in the Hague Tribunal, John Hagan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), xxi + 274 pp., cloth $29.00.

If current timetables hold, the last trials before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will end in 2008, and the Tribunal will close shop altogether in 2010. At that point the court, established by the UN Security Council in [End Page 326] 1993 to address atrocities in the Balkans, will pass out of existence. Only from that point on will it be possible to take proper measure of the Tribunal's full record—its successes and missteps, its accomplishments and limitations.

All the same, a number of books have appeared recently assessing the Court's first decade of work. These books are of necessity mid-term reports. The Milovevic trial had entered its fourth year with no end in sight when the defendant died suddenly on March 11, 2006. Other important trials, including the prosecution of Mom1ilo Krajivnik, are, at this writing, in midstream, and a spate of recent arrests of high-level functionaries promises to keep ICTY prosecutors busy until the Tribunal disbands. Given the hazards of writing about an ongoing process, most of the literature on the ICTY has sensibly focused on the court's founding and early years. In Justice in a Time of War, Pierre Hazan, a journalist for the Paris-based newspaper Libération, does a thorough job of laying bare the formidable political obstacles that impeded the establishment of the Court, including France's original refusal to support the Tribunal, the UN's early unwillingness to support the Court financially, and the reluctance of NATO forces to supply critical evidence and enforce arrest warrants. According to Hazan's bleak report, the political and logistical struggles that plagued the Court's founding have left their imprint upon the justice it has dispensed.

In Justice in the Balkans, John Hagan, a professor of law and sociology at Northwestern, tells a different story. Hagan examines the ways in which the Court, arguably, surmounted the forces allied against it and came to be an effective institution. I say "arguably" because Hagan's central thesis, by necessity provisional, has the flavor of a conditional: if the ICTY proves itself successful, then these are the persons who will have contributed to its success. The bulk of the book is dedicated to showing us how a handful of committed, driven, and organized individuals, principally prosecutors, labored to overcome the barriers put up against their work. There is something agreeable in this analysis: it moves beyond the dreary focus on institutional and structural forces that one finds typically in sociological accounts, and in doing so, powerfully reminds us that people and their actions count.

The account suffers from two important deficiencies, however. The first is conceptual. Writing in a neo-Weberian vein, Hagan is particularly concerned with the role that charisma plays in the success of institutions. Unfortunately, he never defines satisfactorily his key concept. On the whole, Justice in the Balkans is a breezy journalistic account, yet on the few occasions when Hagan inserts sociological terms into his analysis, the results are less than helpful. Terms such as "esteem competition" and "alternation experience associated with teamwork on mission" serve little purpose other than to encumber Hagan's otherwise serviceable prose with unenlightening jargon. Although it might seem unfair to fault a sociologist for deploying sociological terms, in this case the exposition clearly suffers from the attempt to make the book more scholarly.

The second problem involves Hagan's discussion of the leading actors responsible for the court's tentative successes. In general, his heroes are prosecutors, though [End Page 327] he gives an occasional nod to judges and researchers. His attention to some of these lesser figures provides some of the book's best and most valuable moments. He does an excellent job, for example, of describing the work of Jean-René Ruez as the head of the team responsible for compiling evidence and forensic material at the massacre sites in and around Srebrenica. In particular, Hagan draws...


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pp. 326-329
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